(CN) — Love will conquer all — even the dating app scene. Contrary to prognostications that dating apps would render relationships into uncommitted commodities, researchers from the University of Geneva found the digital matchmaking tools actually form more diverse couples than singles who meet through offline networks.
"The internet is profoundly transforming the dynamics of how people meet," explained lead author Gina Potarca, a researcher at the University of Geneva’s Institute of Demography and Socioeconomics, in a statement accompanying the study. "It provides an unprecedented abundance of meeting opportunities, and involves minimal effort and no third-party intervention."
Noting abundant anecdotal claims that dating apps would set off a “dating apocalypse” and reduce singles into “sexual freelancers,” Potarca added, "Large parts of the media claim they have a negative impact on the quality of relationships since they render people incapable of investing in an exclusive or long-term relationship. Up to now, though, there has been no evidence to prove this is the case.”
The study, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, honed in on 3,245 respondents from Switzerland’s quinquennial 2018 Family and Generations Survey of Individuals, of whom 104 met their partner using a dating app, 264 used dating websites and 125 used other online services.
Although Switzerland is characterized by an “enduring conservatism in family ideology and the dominance of marriage as family model,” the country has reported an annual divorce rate of 40% for the last two decades.
Most of the couples surveyed met through friends, but a growing number of people met online. According to Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office, meeting online accounted for a quarter of survey participants in 2018, and is the second most common way people met, with dating apps being the most common way for singles to connect.
While the northern European country is undergoing drastic marital market changes, the study focused on heterosexual couples as legal marriage is not an option for Swiss same-sex couples.
Besides distinguishing offline meet-cutes from online, the study sorts couples who met through apps like Tinder or Grindr from couples who met through a dating website like Match or OKCupid. With lengthy questionnaires and personality quizzes, dating websites form matches based on compatibility, whereas dating apps are designed to allow users to scroll through options quickly, making them suitable for people with limited free time.
“Dating app users are significantly more likely than singles who do not use the internet to search for a partner to mention being too exhausted after work to do what they would like,” the study authors wrote.
The survey found that couples who met through school, work or friends were more likely to share the same education level and background, compared to couples who met online. Couples who met through dating apps were the most likely to have different levels of education — with women choosing a mate with lower education — and were also more likely to date someone who lived an hour away from them.
Additionally, women who used dating apps were more likely to be driven by a desire to have children than women who met their significant other offline.
Couples who met through a website also reported being more satisfied in their relationship than those who met offline, with dating websites sparking slightly more satisfied couples than dating apps.
Still how one met is of little significance in the long run, as the study reports, “generally, there are no differences between couples initiated through dating apps and those initiated elsewhere regarding relationship and life satisfaction.”
The results of this study may help to clear some of the social stigma around using digital dating tools.
"Knowing that dating apps have likely become even more popular during this year's periods of lockdown and social distancing, it is reassuring to dismiss alarming concerns about the long-term effects of using these tools," Potarca added.
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